Written by Amanda Rinehart

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Applied Behavioral Analysis…you have heard about it and you may have been told to use it. “They” told you that it will solve all of your problems with managing and teaching every single student with autism you have ever had and ever will have! It is THE one-size fits all fix, right?

It can be tremendously helpful, but not if you have no clue what it is or how to use it. The idea that there’s a one size fits all program that will reach every child is a myth. All people are different and working with students on the autism spectrum  is no exception. 

Applied Behavioral  Analysis (ABA) is a kind of therapy that children on the autism spectrum can receive at a young age to improve their successes and learn how to navigate through the world with a social/sensory responsive body. 

In a school setting, Applied Behavioral Analysis does contain components that will more often than not reach students you have struggled reaching before. But, the components must be individualized, followed, enhanced, and individually tweaked to reach students. ABA is not just for students on the autism spectrum, however, it is critically important for students with autism. 

Pro Tip: If you have a great personal relationship with your students, it will make the implementation of ABA even easier and more effective. 

The components of ABA are: Task Analysis, Chaining, Prompting, Fading, and Shaping. 

Now, what are THESE words? 

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1. Task Analysis: This part of the ABA process is exactly as it sounds. It is the process of delving deep into the concept you are trying to convey and preparing the task in a way you know will benefit the individual student, based on your knowledge of that student.

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2. Chaining: This is when you break down the concept you are teaching into smaller parts. You teach these small “bites” of the standard for a more solid foundation and ability to put it all together in the end.

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Prompting: When you get to this step, you are confident in your preparation, using the last two steps. And, now, you develop a way to give hints or prompts to the student without giving them the answer. The prompt should be something that the student recognizes and associates with what you are prompting them to do. This will avoid students “messing up” then losing confidence which may lead to a meltdown.

Boy Riding a bike; dad holding on

4. Fading: By this point, you are trying to prevent the students from becoming dependent upon your assistance. This is when you are gradually removing prompts so the student is demonstrating their knowledge without you. Be careful not to fade out too fast. This is a gradual process.

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5. Shaping: The final step is simply positive reinforcement for students making an effort to demonstrate their new knowledge. Even if it is not perfect, recognizing the effort is equally as important as the outcome. It also lets you know what you need to remediate going forward. 

If you use these concepts, in this order, you will experience a higher level of success and you will lessen the amount of explosive behaviors you see in your students. However, if you don’t take time to learn about your students (all of them), it will be difficult to use the ABA concepts to your benefit. If relationship building isn’t your forte, go to the PBIS website and there are many resources you can implement, that will allow you to really learn what makes your students tick.

Statistically, teachers who have accepted ABA as a valid method in educating students on the autism spectrum have experienced nearly 70% more success than teachers who have not accepted the benefits of ABA. Teachers say the barriers are to using ABA in their classrooms, regarding the mindsets and beliefs around behavior modification in students on the spectrum. This included their beliefs on “nature vs. nurture “ in behavioral issues. Teachers who believe that students’ behavior reflects ONLY bad parenting, find themselves looking at behavior problems, throwing up their hands, and taking the stance that it’s not in their control. Obviously, these teachers find the least success. 

Conclusion

Applied Behavioral Analysis is a research-based proven method for improving both behavior and academics with students on the autism spectrum. In my seminars, I talk more in depth about how to apply these concepts, and many more ways to find success in teaching students on the autism spectrum.  Future blogs will share examples of the 5 components to ABA. If you would like to learn how to best help students increase desired behaviors, reduce problematic behaviors, and to learn new skills, check out ABA Visualized: A visual guidebook for parents and teachers.

 

About Amanda Rinehart

Photo of Amanda Rinehart

For 15 years, Amanda has been an educator in urban settings. She has a Master’s degree in both Educational Leadership/Administration and in Applied Behavioral Analysis with a focus on Autism.

    Amanda has been a classroom teacher, Building Options Coordinator for Indianapolis Public Schools, middle and high alternative school  coordinator, and an Assistant Principal in a charter school. She has developed academic and behavioral plans, helped to reduce the number of suspensions or expulsions, led data collection, analysis, reporting for the Alternative Education Department, and provided data-driven procedures and strategies to implement for students to be successful in their least restrictive environment. Additionally, she is a practicing children’s therapist specializing in Cognitive Behavior Therapy. 

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